Dharavi keeps on escaping simple definitions. First it was marked as a slum (the “largest in Asia”, if you recall the headlines from the 1980s onwards). Slowly researchers, the media and parts of the public started to question if Dharavi could really be called a slum. After all, it was composed of a diverse fabric including villages, municipal chawls, high-rises, self-standing houses built by rich merchants, transit camps as well as self-helped and incrementally developed structures. It was an economic miracle full of traders and producers, so far from any clichéd image of how an impoverished neighbourhood is supposed to look like. Moreover, the residents of Dharavi, an older settlement compared to other similar neighbourhoods in Mumbai – managed to lift themselves out of poverty in spite of the lack of infrastructure and public services. Today many of them have reached middle classdom and gone beyond.

On Mahatma Gandhi Road we see bustling commercial activities with shops expanding onto the street, people buying, selling and chatting, tool-houses along the road where all kinds of goods are being manufactured and assembled, wholesale retailers, repair shops, restaurants and tea stalls, butchers and fish markets, temples, churches and mosques, crowded gyms and function halls, services ranging from hairdressers to fortune tellers, and so much more.

Originally posted on Airroots